None of this necessarily means that this new breed of American is either more or less promising than those who lived with three television channels and atom bomb drills. Time marches on, and people adapt to the world and the world to new people.
But there does seem to be one emerging characteristic of this new age demographic, and, not surprisingly, it appears to be a function of the speed at which technological and social changes have occurred.
As a whole, I think younger Americans are less passionate and focused on issues related to government, policy and other "hard news."
Studies show that younger people are shying away from newspapers. They are instead getting word of national and world news as it flashes by on the margins of their Internet providers' home page, or when by chance, they channel surf past a cable or broadcast television news show.
I don't suppose that in itself is reason to castigate the younger set. After all, their president has said several times that even he doesn't read newspapers. (I don't believe that's true, and I sure hope I'm right.)
What does all this mean? For one, it likely means that the education and edification of our citizenry will fall more and more into the hands of government schools -- or private ones, for those whose parents can afford them. Schools will have to instill in the generation now under 18 some sense of perspective on history, the glittery present and our collective future.
Concepts of patience and sacrifice -- not to mention a basic understanding and appreciation of our form of government -- will increasingly hinge on what the next crop of students are taught or not taught in primary, secondary and post-secondary schools.
Sadly, I hear far too many reports of school systems choosing to skip whole portions of American history. Too many spend more time and money building new sports facilities than on building a basic background of knowledge and cognitive skills for their students.
The polls I constantly review are just a modest peep through the keyhole of the future. But this narrow view shows an uneasy disconnect between those of us entering middle age and beyond, and those just now entering adulthood. The perception gap may prove to be wider than anyone can now foresee.
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